Construction contracts are at the forefront of the mega projects being implemented in the State of Qatar, according to Qatar International Centre for Conciliation and Arbitration (QICCA) board member for International Relations Sheikh Dr Thani bin Ali al-Thani.
Sheikh Thani, who is also a member and representative of the State of Qatar at the ICC Court of Arbitration, said commercial arbitration is an effective way to resolve these disputes after the failure of friendly mechanisms, such as negotiation, mediation, and others.
Speaking at a webinar organised recently by Qicca, in co-operation with ICC Qatar and Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), Sheikh Thani said the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected world economies, as well as projects related to construction, urban development, and real estate development.
He said these projects faced many problems, including shortages in raw materials and building materials, as well as problems related to energy and employment.
The webinar was held under the theme ‘Arbitration Construction Disputes during Covid-19 and Beyond’ to highlight several topics pertaining to arbitration in construction disputes during the pandemic and beyond.
It also discussed the management of infrastructure projects during a crisis period and amendments of the arbitration rules to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.
Speakers during the event included arbitrator engineer Abdulla Hassan al-Mehshadi; Qicca general counsel Dr Minas Khatchdourian; president of Qatar Chapter of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators engineer Ahmed al-Ansari; past president of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, chartered arbitrator and accredited mediator James Bridgemen, and Pinsent Masons Law Firm partner Pamela McDonald.
Al-Mehshadi said the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted all economic sectors, foremost of which is the construction sector. He reviewed the most important challenges facing the construction industry in the region and in the world amid the pandemic.
He also noted that the construction sector was affected by many factors, including the lack of employment, disruption in supply chains, and unavailability and high prices of raw materials, as well as challenges related to cash flows and laws and procedures issued within the precautionary measures, including closure procedures and travel restrictions.
Khatchdourian said arbitration centres have issued many directives to ensure the continuity of arbitration cases despite the conditions imposed by the pandemic. He further reviewed the technical and legal challenges that face holding the arbitration sessions remotely, noting that in this regard Qicca has adopted the latest electronic means in arbitration procedures.
Al-Ansari said commercial arbitration has shown great flexibility in its rules to adapt to the current circumstances, adding that arbitration centres and institutions were able to hold sessions remotely using modern technologies in the arbitration process through holding virtual sessions, hearing witnesses, and exchanging files and documents.
Bridgemen discussed the most important effects of the pandemic on the construction sector within a year and a half, as well as the role of arbitration in dispute settlement and the role of arbitration centres in dealing with the arbitration in the post-pandemic period.
McDonald noted that construction disputes entail some features than other commercial disputes, as they entail specialised technical issues, and their parties are often international companies and partners, and also they include a huge volume of documents and noted that the pandemic also has effects on arbitration in the construction sector in Qatar.